The FIFA Task Force Football 2014 convened for the first time on 10 May 2011 at Home of FIFA in Zurich. FIFA.com has gathered the participants’ initial reactions to the first meeting of the new working group:
Joseph S. Blatter (FIFA President)
FIFA’s goal is to increase the attractiveness of the game from now on, partly in order to meet fans’ changing demands and expectations. The Task Force 2014 is debating a huge number of topics, for example refereeing standards, competition formats, and match supervision. We’re expecting to develop productive proposals for submission to a variety of bodies such as the FIFA Executive Committee and the International Football Association Board.
Franz Beckenbauer (Chairman, Germany)
I very much regret not being able to attend today’s meeting for health reasons. The FIFA Task Force Football 2014 is a hugely important project and the establishment of this working group, tasked with setting the course for the future of football, is an excellent idea put forward by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. Working on this project means a great deal to me personally and I was very much looking forward to today’s meeting, and in particular to seeing my colleagues and experts from the world of football again. We spent the last few weeks on detailed preparations. These preparations are complete and the project is all set to go. Our task is to answer vital questions about the game, devise solutions, and formulate concrete proposals.
Kalusha Bwalya (Zambia)
Chairing this Task Force today has been a great personal honour. This working group is an important step in increasing the attractiveness of football. The aim is to debate important topics relating to the game and make firm suggestions for improvements. I’m proud we’ve already come up with concrete proposals in four important areas. First, we propose allowing a fourth substitution in extra time, especially at youth tournaments. We propose reviewing the interpretation of “Law 11 – Offside” when it comes to interfering with an opponent, especially when it is not physical interference. Finally, we’ve made suggestions regarding the problem of triple punishment, and on the need for greater professionalism in refereeing.
Demetrio Albertini (Italy)
Today’s meeting was very important, as a committee of this nature hasn’t met since 1990. Our conference lasted longer than originally planned, and we didn’t even manage to discuss all the points on the agenda, because our debates were simply so intense and interesting. In my opinion, there were three especially significant items discussed today: first, the so-called triple punishment of a red card, penalty and suspension, which we feel is too hard on the player concerned. Second, how to proceed with goal-line technology. We’re not 100 per cent sure where we’ll end up, but it was vital to hear each other’s views, as we unanimously agree that we have to pursue this route. Finally, the question of offside and defining active and passive offside. We’d be only too happy to simplify this rule, just to make referees’ lives a little bit easier.
Massimo Bussacca (Switzerland)
Football is a simple game, and there’s not a lot that needs changing, but we all agree there are areas where improvement could be made. In terms of refereeing, we could certainly improve overall levels of performance during matches. Our goal is to field genuinely good referees in Brazil in 2014. I’ve been refereeing for 22 years, the last ten of them at the highest level. I have experience to share and recommendations to make, things I perhaps wasn’t told during my own development, so we might improve that, for example. Obviously, we need professional referees, and not just in name: we need high quality on the field of play too.
We all want football to be as spectacular as it can be. Football should provoke joy and strong emotions. Players who discredit the image of the game, who spend all their time criticising referees, set a poor example for young people. We need to change this mentality. Our sport is a truly wonderful thing and we can’t allow it to be ruined by things like this. I played at four World Cups, and won the trophy twice. I intend to pass on my experience in this working group.
Ivan Curkovic (Serbia)
Football has become extremely popular, and there’s a lot of money involved. We need to protect the game, and ensure there are no problems at Brazil 2014. We have a few points to address before then – new technology, for example. On the one hand, it can be a real help, but on the other, it can cause problems. Everything will be discussed and dissected from a hundred different perspectives. There’s no such thing as perfection, but a Task Force boasting this level of expertise will be able to propose effective solutions. The most difficult task is to help the game by predicting in advance how it will unfold. Football is a dynamic sport, so you can’t just stop the action like in basketball or American football. Football is popular because it’s a simple game with simple rules. You can play anywhere with the minimum of equipment, and this aspect must be preserved.
Prof. Jiri Dvorak (Switzerland)
For us, the first meeting was very important, because medical aspects are an integral component of the Task Force. This represents a major recognition for science and its role in improving the game. I’d like to see the principle of fair play much more widely applied, within the ultimate elimination of all fouls which could lead to injuries.
Sunil Gulati (USA)
We didn’t find a solution to every problem today, but that’s not what you’d expect from a first meeting. As president of a national association which sent a team to the World Cup and operates a league, I can offer a slightly different perspective on matters, and I think that’s what President Blatter is looking for: people from a variety of backgrounds, people who’ve played, and people who are administrators in the game. You also have the conflicting interests of the clubs and the national teams, and the medical experts. It's a brilliant idea. All these people came together in this room today, all working towards a shared goal – the good of football.
Fernando Hierro (Spain)
I’m proud to be a member of this working group, and I have to say the first meeting has been a wonderful experience for me. I played professionally for more than 18 years, I represented Spain at World Cups and European championships, and I’m now director of sport for this team. It's exactly this range of experience which allows me to put forward interesting ideas which could be of benefit to football.
Charmaine Hooper (Canada)
I believe this Task Force can help make the game more interesting and entertaining for the fans. I can draw on my experience from women’s football, as we attempt to make it more appealing and more easily accessible for female referees and coaches. We need to help them become more professional, although it’s not easy, because many have families and find it difficult to pursue another career.
Christian Karembeu (France)
Following on from its predecessor in 1990, this Task Force could bring about changes in football. One of the main topics for discussion was the triple punishment, which we’d like to see softened a little, in that the player only sees yellow and not a straight red. In women’s football, we’d like to see more women involved as coaches and referees, because women’s football is expanding rapidly.
Ioan Lupescu (Romania)
I believe this Task Force could bring about change for the good of the game. It's a good blend of former players who now work as administrators, referees, and medical specialists. The important issues for me is uniformity in the rules and competitions.
Theo van Seggelen (Netherlands)
For the players, it’s incredibly important to have a voice on Task Force 2014 via FIFPro. After all, without the players, there’s no football. They’re the ones out there on the field, and they know the problems better than anyone else. For us, triple punishment and refereeing are vital topics which we have to discuss.